Category: novelty

On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 – “Disco Duck Pt. 1” by Rick Dees & His Cast Of Idiots hits #1 on the Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #15 on the R&B singles chart on November 20, 1976. Written by Rick Dees, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the broadcasting legend born Rigdon Osmond Dees III. Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Rick Dees works days as a DJ at WMPS while spinning records at local night club called Chesterfield’s at night. With the Disco Era nearing its commercial peak in the mid 70’s, Dees is inspired to write a parody song. He’ll pitch the idea around town for a few months before attracting the interest of Stax Records co-founder Estelle Axton who is running a local record label called Fretone Records. Dees gets his friend Ken Pruitt to provide the signature “Donald Duck” vocals on the track. Released on Fretone in early 1976, the single begins getting major regional airplay throughout the south, but is not played by any Memphis radio stations, out of fear of promoting their competition. Rick Dees himself is prohibited by his own radio station from playing the record on the air. When he talks about it on the air one morning, the station manager abruptly fires him, on the grounds that it was a conflict of interest. After the firing, Dees is hired by rival station WHBQ-AM in Memphis. Shortly afterward, Dees goes to Los Angeles to shop the record around to major labels. Al Coury, the head of RSO Records buys the master from Fretone to release it nationally. Once the novelty hit takes hold on radio, it is a runaway smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on August 14, 1976, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Disco Duck” is also featured in one scene in the film “Saturday Night Fever”, but is not included on the Grammy winning soundtrack album. His management unwisely decides not to grant permission to allow RSO to use it on the soundtrack. At the same time the record is a huge hit selling over six million copies worldwide (over two million in the US alone), a large groundswell of backlash against the song develops while it is on the charts. It is often been cited by critics as one of the “worst records of all time”. “Disco Duck Pt. 1” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 11, 1960 – “Alley-Oop” by The Hollywood Argyles hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Dallas Frazier, it is the biggest hit for the Los Angeles studio band created by producer Gary Paxton. Having previously scored hits as one half of the duo Skip And Flip (“It Was I”, “Cherry Pie”), record producer and singer Gary Paxton  comes up with the idea of forming another group to mask his identity. Still under contract to Brent Records, Paxton creates the shadow group The Hollywood Argyles, named after the street Arygyle Street, off of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. During this time, Paxton meets producer Kim Fowley and they form a production company called Maverick Music, initially conducting business from a pay phone booth at a Chevron gas station. They find the song “Alley Oop”, a novelty tune written by country songwriter Dallas Frazier (a friend of Paxton’s) about the caveman comic strip character. Recording with local studio musicians, “Alley-Oop” is released through Los Angeles based  Lute Records. The record quickly become a hit in L.A. and other cities, but because Lute does not have a distributor in New York, they soon find that they have competition. Madison Records founder Larry Uttal (later founding Private Stock Records) releases a cover of “Alley-Oop” by Dante And The Evergreens. The Hollywood Argyles version stomps the competition. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on May 30, 1960, it races to the top of the chart six weeks later. The Evergreens version stalls at #15 before The Hollywood Argyles hit the top on July 11, 1960. The Argyles are short lived when Gary Paxton feels he hasn’t been paid properly by Lute Records for the huge hit. He forms his own label Garpax Records, later producing the chart topping single “The Monster Mash” for Bobby “Boris” Pickett in 1962. Kim Fowley later discovers and produces The Runaways, working with a number of other groups. Dallas Frazier continues to have a successful songwriting career. The Oak Ridge Boys cover his song “Elvira” in 1981, scoring a Platinum selling country and pop crossover smash with it. “Alley-Oop” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 4, 1966 – “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!!” by Napoleon XIV is released. Written by N. Bonaparte, it is the lone hit for the songwriter and producer born Jerry Samuels. The novelty track featuring only the accompaniment of a snare drum, hand claps, a tambourine and sirens is recorded by Samuels, a New York based songwriter, producer, recording engineer. Released as a single by Warner Bros Records, the song has the unique distinction of being one the fastest rising and falling singles in the history of the Billboard pop singles chart. Entering the Hot 100 at #50 on July 23, 1966, and quickly rockets to its peak position of #3 only three weeks later. However, radio stations begin dropping it from their playlists en masse when they receive complaints from listeners that is insensitive to the mentally ill. The single falls to #5, then to #37 and off the chart completely the following week, spending a total of only six weeks on the chart. The B-side of the original 45 titled “!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT” features the song played in reverse.

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On this day in music history: July 2, 1979 – “Mickey Mouse Disco” is released. Produced by Jymn Magon, it is recorded at Audio Media Recording Studios in Nashville, TN from Early – Mid 1979. With disco permeating the culture unlike anything before it, its influence is everywhere. Eventually the Walt Disney Studios jumps on board to cash in. In January of 1977, Disney revives The Mickey Mouse Club as “The New Mickey Mouse Club” as a syndicated TV series. Featuring a new group of Mouseketeers that includes future Facts Of Life star Lisa Whelchel, Allison Fonte, Curtis Wong, Kelly Parsons, and Scott Craig, the series runs for 130 episodes through January of 1979. During its first season, the actors record an up tempo discofied version of the “Mickey Mouse March”. Titled “Disco Mouse (Mickey Mouse March)”, the song is released as a single by Buena Vista Records. Though not a success, it sets the wheels in motion for an even more ambitious project. Producer Jymn Magon proposes that Disney record a disco album aimed at children, featuring both original songs and four on the floor covers of evergreens like “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, “It’s A Small World” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. Disney executives join forces with a company called Odyssey Productions out of Nashville, TN to record the album. Musicians and studio singers including Dennis Burnside, Pat Patrick, Paul Whitehead and Jack Jackson are hired to play on the album and write new songs. Titled “Mickey Mouse Disco”, the nine song album is ironically titled as the voice of Mickey Mouse is not heard on it. Though other Disney characters like Donald Duck (“Macho Duck”) and Goofy (“Watch Out For Goofy!”), are represented. Issued at a time when the disco is on the wane, the album initially attracts little attention. Then Disney’s marketing department comes up with the idea of promoting the record with TV commercials, as well as offering it for sale as a direct mail order item as well as at retail. The plan works brilliantly, and by April of 1980, “Mickey Mouse Disco” races past the Gold mark in sales. Realizing that they’re on to something unique, Disney also sells numerous merchandising tie-ins. It also spins off a program, featuring classic Disney animated footage synched up to the music. Aired incessantly on the Disney Channel during the 80’s, it also propels the album’s sales. Its blend of kitsch, humor and family friendly appeal turn it into one of the biggest children’s albums of all time, selling more than two million copies in the US alone. Reissued briefly on CD in 1995, “Mickey Mouse Disco” is reissued as a limited edition vinyl LP for Record Store Day in April of 2019, for its fortieth anniversary. “Mickey Mouse Disco” peaks at number thirty five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 9, 1958 – “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 6 weeks. Written by Sheb Wooley, the novelty song is the biggest hit for the Oklahoma born singer/actor. Wooley auditions for the head of MGM Records in early 1958, singing mostly ballads. At the auditions conclusion, he sings “The Purple People Eater” when the label president asks if he has any other material. Sensing its hit potential, he signs the singer and rush him into the studio with producer/A&R man Neely Plumb (father of actress Eve Plumb, “Jan Brady” on “The Brady Bunch”). The song is quickly cut and released, becoming an immediate smash. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #7 on June 2, 1958, it leaps to the top of the chart the following week. “The Purple People Eater” sells over two million copies. Following the success of the record, Sheb Wooley stars on then new TV series “Rawhide” with an up and coming new actor named Clint Eastwood. “The Purple People Eater” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 28, 1958 – “Witch Doctor” by David Seville hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 2 weeks. Written and produced by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (aka David Seville), it is the first chart topping single for the creator of Alvin & The Chipmunks. Seville achieves the trademark sped up “chipmunk” like vocal sound by recording voices with the tape machine running at half-speed while recording, then playing it back at normal speed. Prior to his own success as a recording artist, his biggest success as a songwriter comes when he pens Rosemary Clooney’s hit “Come On-A My House” in 1951. Released as a single in early April of 1958, the novelty song is an immediate hit. Entering the Billboard Best Sellers chart at #36 on April 14, 1958, it leaps to the top of the chart two weeks later. “Witch Doctor” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

Help support the Behind The Grooves music blog with a donation by clicking on the link at: PayPal.Me/jharris1228

On this day in music history: December 22, 1958 – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by The Chipmunks & David Seville hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Following the chart topping success of the single “Witch Doctor” in April of 1958, David Seville (birth name: Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.), follows it up with his most popular and enduring creation. Seville’s youngest son Adam provides the inspiration, for what becomes “The Chipmunk Song”. The idea for the song comes about, when the young boy asks his father in September “if it’s Christmas yet?”. Seville takes the idea and runs with it. He creates the characters Alvin, Simon, & Theodore, three cartoon chipmunks who are named after Liberty Records executives Al Bennett and Si Waronker, and recording engineer Ted Keep. Employing the same tape vari-speed technique used on “Witch Doctor”, the vocals on the song are sung by Seville by recording his voice with the tape running at 1/3 normal speed, producing the high pitched “chipmunk like” vocals upon playback. Released right before Thanksgiving in November of 1958, the single is an instant and massive success. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on December 1, 1958, it pole vaults to the top of the chart three weeks later. At the time of its release, “The Chipmunk Song” becomes one of the fastest selling singles of all time, when it sells over 4.5 million copies in seven weeks. At the first Grammy Awards in 1959, it wins three awards including Best Comedy Recording, Best Engineered Recording and Best Children’s Recording. The record re-charts on the Hot 100 three more times between 1959 and 1962, peaking at #41, #45 and #39 respectively. The huge success of the single spins off several hit albums including “Christmas With The Chipmunks”, released by Liberty Records in 1962. Out of print since the early 80’s, it is reissued on vinyl in 2014 replicating the original foil LP sleeve and Liberty LP labels with The Chipmunks’ faces printed on them. A limited edition release on split red and green vinyl, is issued as an exclusive through Newbury Comics in 2016. When interest is revived in Alvin and the Chipmunks in December 2007 with the release of the film “Alvin And The Chipmunks”, the original recording of “The Chipmunk Song” re-enters the Hot 100, peaking at #66. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: October 20, 1962 – “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi, it is the biggest hit for the singer and songwriter from Somerville, MA. The novelty classic is recorded in the garage studio of producer/label owner Gary S. Paxton, and also features musician Leon Russell on piano. The record is rejected by several labels before Paxton works out a distribution deal with London Records and releases it on his own Garpax label. “Monster Mash” is an immediate hit upon its release. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on September 8, 1962, it rockets to the top of the chart just six weeks later. On its initial release in the UK, the BBC bans the record from radio and television airplay for being “too morbid”. The ban is lifted in that country when the single is reissued in 1973. “Mash” becomes a belated smash peaking at #3 on the UK singles chart. “Monster Mash” makes chart history as the only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 three separate times. After its first run in 1962, it peaks at #91 in September of 1970. The single actually makes the top ten a second time, peaking at #10 in August of 1973. “Monster Mash” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 – “Disco Duck Pt. 1” by Rick Dees & His Cast Of Idiots hits #1 on the Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #15 on the R&B singles chart on November 20, 1976. Written by Rick Dees, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the broadcasting legend born Rigdon Osmond Dees III. Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Rick Dees works days as a DJ at WMPS while spinning records at local night club called Chesterfield’s at night. With the Disco Era nearing its commercial peak in the mid 70’s, Dees is inspired to write a parody song. He’ll pitch the idea around town for a few months before attracting the interest of Stax Records co-founder Estelle Axton who is running a local record label called Fretone Records. Dees gets his friend Ken Pruitt to provide the signature “Donald Duck” vocals on the track. Released on Fretone in early 1976, the single begins getting major regional airplay throughout the south, but is not played by any Memphis radio stations, out of fear of promoting their competition. Rick Dees himself is prohibited by his own radio station from playing the record on the air. When he talks about it on the air one morning, the station manager abruptly fires him, on the grounds that it was a conflict of interest. After the firing, Dees is hired by rival station WHBQ-AM in Memphis. Shortly afterward, Dees goes to Los Angeles to shop the record around to major labels. Al Coury, the head of RSO Records buys the master from Fretone to release it nationally. Once the novelty hit takes hold on radio, it is a runaway smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on August 14, 1976, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Disco Duck” is also featured in one scene in the film “Saturday Night Fever”, but is not included on the Grammy winning soundtrack album. His management unwisely decides not to grant permission to allow RSO to use it on the soundtrack. At the same time the record is a huge hit selling over six million copies worldwide (over two million in the US alone), a large groundswell of backlash against the song develops while it is on the charts. It is often been cited by critics as one of the “worst records of all time”. “Disco Duck Pt. 1” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: July 11, 1960 – “Alley-Oop” by The Hollywood Argyles hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Dallas Frazier, it is the biggest hit for the Los Angeles studio band created by producer Gary Paxton. Having previously scored hits as one half of the duo Skip And Flip (“It Was I”, “Cherry Pie”), record producer and singer Gary Paxton  comes up with the idea of forming another group to mask his identity. Still under contract to Brent Records, Paxton creates the shadow group The Hollywood Argyles, named after the street Arygyle Street, off of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. During this time, Paxton meets producer Kim Fowley and they form a production company called Maverick Music, initially conducting business from a pay phone booth at a Chevron gas station. They find the song “Alley Oop”, a novelty tune written by country songwriter Dallas Frazier (a friend of Paxton’s) about the caveman comic strip character. Recording with local studio musicians, “Alley-Oop” is released through Los Angeles based  Lute Records. The record quickly become a hit in L.A. and other cities, but because Lute does not have a distributor in New York, they soon find that they have competition. Madison Records founder Larry Uttal (later founding Private Stock Records) releases a cover of “Alley-Oop” by Dante And The Evergreens. The Hollywood Argyles version stomps the competition. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on May 30, 1960, it races to the top of the chart six weeks later. The Evergreens version stalls at #15 before The Hollywood Argyles hit the top on July 11, 1960. The Argyles are short lived when Gary Paxton feels he hasn’t been paid properly by Lute Records for the huge hit. He forms his own label Garpax Records, later producing the chart topping single “The Monster Mash” for Bobby “Boris” Pickett in 1962. Kim Fowley later discovers and produces The Runaways, working with a number of other groups. Dallas Frazier continues to have a successful songwriting career. The Oak Ridge Boys cover his song “Elvira” in 1981, scoring a Platinum selling country and pop crossover smash with it. “Alley-Oop” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.